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Writing sample - double space, single space?


a fragrant plant
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Another dumb question - I'm struggling to keep it down to 10 pages for one school. Is single space acceptable?

Probably not. It is difficult for a lot of people to read single spaced documents. How about using 1.5 space instead, or making the font a little smaller?

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Another dumb question - I'm struggling to keep it down to 10 pages for one school. Is single space acceptable?

Doubt it. And as far as shrinking the spacing and font by a little, I don't really know any more than the next person about what admissions folks will or will not object to, but a former professor of mine once made it extremely clear that in a pile of double-spaced-and-12-point-font papers, it's super easy to spot any papers with formatting "tricks."

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Double spacing just looks to me like someone is trying to make a short, crappy essay look long - brings back memories of middle school homework assignments. I never use double spacing unless I'm printing something out to edit it and plan on writing a lot of notes in pen - I always use 1.5 spacing. I'm sure 1.5 spacing is fine for writing samples, but I wouldn't fiddle with the font size or margins. Generally I think that's a pretty obvious red flag that says "my essay is way too long and I'm trying to prevent you from noticing." It's like when people think double-spacing their bibliographies will make them seem more impressive - I'm sure the people reading them are entirely aware of what you're trying to do! Also, keep in mind that the people reading these will be reading a lot of writing samples and application materials, and you want your sample to be easy enough to read. Someone spending hours reading boring writing samples is not going to enjoy looking through a long essay written in a tiny font, and your ideas may not come across as clearly in that scrunched format.

I'm having the same problem shortening my writing sample, but I've told myself that if I absolutely can't get it short enough, I'm just going to submit something else instead.

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Honestly, all of my professors and advisors right now are telling me to just ignore any page limits and send your best work. They won't read the whole thing anyway, so if it's too long, they'll stop when they want to.

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I would not 1.5 space it. That's likely to annoy readers who are used to properly formatted, double spaced work.

Not to sound like a broken record here, but you should find the style guide that's appropriate for your discipline and follow all rules in it. Most (if not all) require double spacing. I know that a little thing like spacing isn't likely to make or break your entire application, but as a general rule, adhering to the professional standards of your discipline can only help. You wouldn't send in a sample with badly formatted citations, would you? So why would you mess with the spacing?

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  • 2 months later...

I would not 1.5 space it. That's likely to annoy readers who are used to properly formatted, double spaced work.

Not to sound like a broken record here, but you should find the style guide that's appropriate for your discipline and follow all rules in it. Most (if not all) require double spacing. I know that a little thing like spacing isn't likely to make or break your entire application, but as a general rule, adhering to the professional standards of your discipline can only help. You wouldn't send in a sample with badly formatted citations, would you? So why would you mess with the spacing?

This info might be old news, but I agree. After teaching composition for the past three years, I can tell you exactly how one altered paper stands out from the rest in the pile (and gets on your nerves). You should follow MLA, APA, or CMS style for your submissions (depending on the program) -- all of which use double-spacing. Format your paper like you would if submitting it to a peer reviewed journal: double-spaced, 1 inch margins, style formatting requirements, etc.

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  • 6 months later...
  • 2 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I second the suggestion to adhere to the professional standards in your field. In history (Chicago-style), double-spacing is standard as is 12pt font. Rules are to give everyone a level-playing field. My sample was twice the standard limits of 20-25 pages and I just omitted a few whole sections and summarized them with a note italicized in brackets. I have heard some people say send your whole sample and disregard stated limits, but it seems a bit risky to me. Sending a 50-page writing sample when the maximum allowed is 25 pages is essentially the equivalent of sending a 2000-word personal statement when they say "no more than 1000 words." Why take a chance on annoying even one committee member by flagrantly disregarding explicit instructions?

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